Pakistan's six major millers, including a former confidante of Prime Minister Imran Khan, owing over 50 per cent of sugar production were acting like a "cartel" and under-reported sugar sales for years, according to a government report released on Thursday.
The report is based on the probe of the Sugar Forensic Commission (SFC) constituted in April to find out those behind the sugar shortage and its price hike that hit the country earlier this year.
"The findings show that the six major millers owing over 50 per cent of sugar production were acting like a cartel," the Prime Minister's aide on accountability, Shehzad Akbar, said at press conference he addressed along with Information Minister Shibli Faraz.
Akbar said that the finding showed that the millers underreported their stocks to evade taxes. They also colluded to create artificial shortages and sell sugar at high prices. He said they sold sugar to unnamed buyers and also indulged in "double booking, under-reporting and over-invoicing".
The report noted that under-invoiced sales from bagasse and molasses by one miller resulted in 25 per cent cost inflation.
"The report also showed that mill owners are maintaining two account books. There is an under-reporting on sugar procurement of 25-30 per cent, which is an absolute, he said.
Some of the owners also committed corporate fraud whereby money was transferred from their public limited company to their private company, Akbar said.
He said that the sugar industry was given subsidies worth Rs29 billion over the last five years whereas the tax income from all 88 sugar mills across the country was just Rs 10 billion after tax refunds.
He said that the probe found stark failure of the government institutions to hold them accountable, as their malpractice went on unchecked for years.
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